This month, I add lighter weights to Gimlet Sans, a Grotesque sans serif companion to my typeface Gimlet, which was in turn inspired by Georg Trump’s 1938 typeface Schadow. While superelliptical sans serifs can sometimes feel cold, Gimlet Sans harnesses Schadow’s unique blend of geometric clunkiness and organic spunkiness to add some bounce and liveliness to the mix.
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Font of the Month Club sends you a fresh new font every single month! Fonts of the month include distinctive display faces, experimental designs, and exclusive previews of my upcoming retail typeface families. Each font is lovingly designed and produced by me, David Jonathan Ross.
By diversifying your font collection at a minimal cost, the club can push you to try new and interesting type in your work.
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Club Lithographer is a wide-set italic with elongated serifs, blobby outstrokes, and an unusually steep slant (roughly 24°). It’s a response to the typeface Lithographic Italic, credited to Andrew Little and published by A. D. Farmer & Son in 1873. My rendition plays up the expansion contrast present in this style of lettering, letting the weight quickly swell up in the downstrokes in a way that’s reminiscent of the expanding nib of a pointed pen. And it goes even further than traditional pointed-pen lettering by punctuating the beginnings and endings of strokes with expressive blobs.
Where do I even start with this one? Megabase Open is a hollowed-out version of Megabase, a display gothic with strong horizontal stress inspired by the clunkiness of 19th-century gothics like Gothic Bold and the space-age funkiness of 1970s designs such as Aldo Novarese’s Sintex and Bob Newman’s Zipper. This month’s issue features experiments that fill those hollow spaces with colors and gradients.
This month, I’ve finally added wider and lighter Display styles to Roslindale, my cheeky serif typeface. Roslindale takes its inspiration from De Vinne, a typeface named for the famed nineteenth century printer and attributed to Gustav Schroeder and Nicholas Werner of the Central Type Foundry. De Vinne was an oldstyle that couldn’t shake its Victorian sensibilities, designed in a time that was so immersed in the upright Modern style that folks seemed to forget what diagonal stress actually looked like. Roslindale smooths out the clunkiness of the original and dials up the contrast, flirting with the slickness of 1970s interpretations such as ITC Bernase.
Heckendon is a bracketed slab serif based on the Condensed Clarendons of nineteenth century British and American poster typography. Under the guidance of Clarendon-enthusiast Bethany Heck, I drew this Hairline style far thinner than any of its Victorian predecessors, and we hope this is only the beginning. Heckendon’s simple and confident forms make it feel industrial-strength even at the thinnest possible weight, while its ball terminals lend it a touch of gracefulness.
Pomfret is a set of titling capitals with Arts & Crafts flair. After years of encouragement from Roger Black, I began the design as an homage to the work of Bertram Goodhue, famous as the architect of the Nebraska State Capitol as well as the typeface Cheltenham. The skeletons of the letters were initially inspired by the tightly-spaced capitals (especially the restrained R and K) found on his cover for The Knight Errant. Pomfret moves beyond its source material, adopting a more contemporary finish with discretionary ligatures, razor-thin hairlines, and restrained, bracketed serifs.
This expansion of my sans serif Bild leaves the original bold weights behind and explores the lighter end of the spectrum. The sketches for this date back to 2012, when Sam Berlow encouraged me to develop a Grotesque family built around Trade Gothic’s “outliers”: two anomalous straight-sided weights that had little to do with the rest of Jackson Burke’s classic midcentury family.
Gimlet Sans is a Grotesque sans serif companion to my typeface Gimlet, which was in turn inspired by Georg Trump’s 1938 typeface Schadow. While superelliptical sans serifs can sometimes feel cold, Gimlet Sans harnesses Schadow’s unique blend of geometric clunkiness and organic spunkiness to add some bounce and liveliness to the mix.
Roslindale is a text and display serif that takes its inspiration from De Vinne, a typeface named for the famed nineteenth century printer and attributed to Gustav Schroeder and Nicholas Werner of the Central Type Foundry. De Vinne was an oldstyle that couldn’t shake its Victorian sensibilities. This Deck series is meant for uses that are between text and display, and includes four weights (Regular–Bold), accompanying Italics, and a variable font.
Dattilo DJR revives the slab serif counterpart to Forma, released between 1972 and 1974 by the renowned type foundry Nebiolo and created by a team of Italian designers led by the inimitable Aldo Novarese. Like Forma DJR, this revival attempts to bring new life to this bygone era of typography, embodying the peculiar collision of midcentury modernist idealism with the smudgy realities of metal, ink, and paper. With rounded corners and tapered serifs, this month’s offering explores the heavier side of the designspace, including Regular, Medium, Bold, and Black weights (not to mention a variable font).
Megabase is a display gothic with strong horizontal stress inspired by the clunkiness of 19th-century gothics like Gothic Bold and the space-age funkiness of 1970s designs such as Aldo Novarese’s Sintex and Bob Newman’s Zipper. Megabase goes beyond its forebears in emphasizing its horizontality; while most typefaces strive for an even typographic color, Megabase embraces its unevenness, allowing topheavy, bottomheavy, and diagonal forms to stick out like sore thumbs. The typeface offers several variants of especially disruptive letters, allowing the designer to calibrate these interruptions.
Gimlet X-Ray is an experimental version of my typeface Gimlet that showcases the internal mechanics of a variable font. It wears its insides on the outside, exposing the control points, Bézier curves, and spacing information that defines each letterform. Available as a color font in both COLR/CPAL and SVG flavors, it offers many ways to customize its appearance.
Zenith Slab DJR is a slab serif version of Zenith DJR, a set of Art Deco capitals based on a fire station inscription in Charlotte, North Carolina. In this design, each letter gets a single heavy stem, eschewing traditional weight distribution and enriching words with a distinctive rhythm. The slab serif version enhances Zenith’s Art Deco geometry with angular vertical serifs, which adds a sense of playfulness to the otherwise-spare design. Zenith’s chunky strokes and open spacing make it a perfect choice for headers and packaging.
Roslindale was inspired by De Vinne, a typeface attributed to Gustav Schroeder and Nicholas Werner and released by the Central Type Foundry in 1892. Whether I like it or not, Roslindale Ultra may owe more to the bold, high-contrast, Victorian-inspired serifs of the International Typeface Corporation (better known as ITC) and designers such as Herb Lubalin, Tom Carnase, and Ed Benguiat that came to define American typography in the 1970s.
Clavichord is a spindly textura inspired by a little-known American typeface from the mid 1800s called Cuneiform or Italian Text. The design is built around a repeating “sparkle” shape that is abstracted from the diamondlike forms made by a broadnib pen held at 45°. Any connection to broadnib calligraphy is severed after that, as the typeface descends into lavish Victorian excess with razor-thin hairlines and decorative ball terminals. The Optical Size axis keeps the hairlines at 0.5pt across a wide range of sizes.
Lautsprecher DJR is a revival of Lautsprecher, a curious hybrid of cursive capitals and an italic sans-serif lowercase designed by Jakob Erbar. The typeface was released by German foundry Ludwig & Mayer in 1931, but disappeared from their catalog after Erbar’s death and the foundry’s destruction during the second World War. A specimen for this funky design recently made its way to Letterform Archive in San Francisco, and thanks to some cheerleading from Stephen Coles, I have attempted an interpretation for contemporary use.
The Wonderground map is famous for saving the London Underground. But when I first encountered Gill’s work in La Jolla, the map that struck first most was actually Wonderground’s 1922 successor, “In the Heat of the Summer.” Titling caps feel elegant because we allow them to take up the space that they need. So what impressed me about the capitals on this particular map is that they managed to retain so much of their elegance despite being so aggressively crammed together.
Tortellini is an extended slab serif with horizontal stress. Originally intended as a wide companion for Pappardelle, it took on a life of its own as I incorporated more and more aspects of the Extended French Antique typefaces of the 19th century. The resulting typeface has wider proportions and thinner hairlines than its predecessors, enlivened by a funky mix of squared-off slabs and bouncy, elastic rounds.
Based on metal type found by Indra Kupferschmid, this interpretation captures the rounded corners, tapered stems, and subtle quirks that were byproducts of the printing process. These new “Chiaroscuro” styles go beyond the original weights to explore the extremes of Light and Dark in Forma DJR’s designspace.
Bild is a straight-sided sans inspired by two outlier styles found in Trade Gothic, Bold and Condensed No. 20. These styles stand apart from the majority of Jackson Burke’s famous midcentury grot, with a clunky rigidity more in line with Alternate Gothic or Railroad Gothic. Back in 2012, Sam Berlow suggested an entire family stemming from these outliers, and I’ve been toying with the idea ever since.
Every bit as dense and blocky as the original, these new styles take on a rhythm now that things aren’t so squished together. In order to maintain this density, the stroke weight gets significantly thicker as the design gets wider.
Polliwog’s Art Nouveau-style capitals are inspired by the work of German artist Max Joseph Gradl. Rather than adopting the oranmental excess of Gradl’s original, this typeface suggests that all you need is a single drop of that proto-psychedelic Jugendstil energy to create a compelling rhythm. Intended for short bursts of novelty text, Polliwog juxtaposes straight stems with broad, swooping curves that flatten out abruptly as they hit the tops and bottoms of letters. This creates a clumping in weight that is echoed by the softened and tapered stroke endings, giving a lively wobble to an otherwise-skeletal design.
Gimlet Banner is a funky quirkhorse workhorse inspired by Georg Trump’s 1938 typeface Schadow. At the behest of Nick Sherman, I reimagined the oddball serif as an energetic contemporary workhorse, and this Banner exploration raises the thick/thin contrast to new heights. A multifaceted series that speaks with a singular voice, Gimlet is a rare find: a typeface that is as funky as it is functional.
Nickel Gothic Wide is a stocky grotesque based on lettering found on the same 1918 Chinese banknote its serifed counterpart Nickel. It retains the squarish forms and closed apertures of the serifed design, but its significantly bolder weight and wider proportions endow it with an intense energy of its own. Despite the fact that it is based on lettering from over a century ago, it has overtones of the midcentury sans serifs like Microgramma/Eurostile as well as squared gothics form the ’70s like Neographik and Serpentine.
A sloped Roman was not enough for Roslindale. Like De Vinne before it, Roslindale combines a rational structure typical of the Victorian era with echoes of historicized “oldstyle” shapes. And because Roz has a foot in both the “modern” and “oldstyle” worlds, I felt that its Italic should as well.
Italics can have an especially complicated relationship with their companion Romans. This is because they can differ from the Roman not only in slope, but in cursiveness as well.
Forma and Dattilo share an interesting history as the product of a committee of eight prominent Italian graphic designers led by Nebiolo’s art director, Aldo Novarese. The struggling foundry assembled this committee to create a new “universal” typeface that would compete with the likes of Helvetica and Univers. Indra Kupferschmid documented this unusual tale of design-by-committee in an article that accompanied Forma DJR’s release, and even more detail can now be found in a pair of recent articles by Alessandro Colizzi. Just like Forma, Roger has admired the design for decades, even commissioning a phototype version from Jim Parkinson for a 1977 cover of Rolling Stone when the original metal was unavailable.
Pappardelle Party expands on Pappardelle, a French Antique slab serif inspired by the modernist uses of horizontal stress in the twentieth century, particularly Herbert Matter’s branding for Knoll. This new stencil style further abstracts the design, complete with horizontal bridges that form bands across a line of text. It also combines color font technology, a variable axis, and OpenType contextual alternates to cycle through a sequence of four colors that changes position with each letter is typed.
Fern Micro is a Venetian oldstyle that is native to the screen. With exaggerated diagonal stress, Fern’s weight clumps in round strokes and chunky triangular serifs, giving it a rich texture that sparkles even at the smallest size. Its ribbonlike forms are modeled after the Renaissance faces of Nicolas Jenson as well as related twentieth century revivals such as Centaur and Dante.
Bradley DJR is a revival of Bradley, a typeface released by American Type Founders in 1895. It is based on Will H. Bradley’s cover for the Christmas edition of The Inland Printer magazine, and most records show that it was Hermann Ihlenburg who completed the design. Its simplified forms make it more accessible to readers who aren’t accustomed to blackletter, and this revival seeks to preserve its softness, descending caps, and distinctive storybook character.
Map Roman is an elegant set of capitals based on the lettering of MacDonald Gill, whose work included a variety of beautifully handlettered maps of London, England, and the world. After stumbling upon his work in a map museum, I tried my hand at a typographical interpretation that attempts to capture the liveliness and authority of his letterforms.
Rhody is a stocky geometric slab with distinctive vertical serifs in unexpected places. Its jumping-off point was the cover of a 1952 garden calendar that I found in the Mölndals Stadsmuseum outside Gothenburg, Sweden. With narrow, straight-sided forms and curves, Rhody’s quirky, mechanical look is punctuated by extra-gappy inktraps as well as blocky forms of f, j, and t. The July 2018 edition adds Light, Medium, and Black weights to the Rhody family, as well as a bonus variable font for licensees of the February 2018 edition.
Merit Badge is a variable color font based on blocky modular letters found in a 1970’s boy scout guide. In contrast to the stark simplicity of its design, the font is technically complex, allowing for variation in weight and serif length, as well as for color to be applied to its three layers. These features make it perfect for animation and experimentation with emerging font technologies.
Roslindale is a text and display serif that takes its inspiration from De Vinne, a typeface named for the famed nineteenth century printer and attributed to Gustav Schroeder and Nicholas Werner of the Central Type Foundry. Roslindale smooths out the clunkiness of the original and dials up the contrast, making for a headline and text face that is eminently usable but still quite distinct. May’s offering includes two Condensed Display weights, Light and Regular, as well as a Bold companion to the text weights.
Rumpus Extended is a super-wide typeface with sharp Latin serifs. It is descended from Stephenson Blake’s 1883 Wide Latin, which contrasts super-pointy serifs with super-round forms. Rumpus keeps a bit of the wild side of other Latins, but isn’t as overtly circuslike. Unlike its predecessors, Rumpus has a distinctly humanist structure, evidenced by its interior corners and punctuated by its diamond shaped dots. And the sheer width of Rumpus Extended is enough to give significant heft to any message, no matter how short it may be.
Output Sans Hairlines is a special cut of the thinnest weights of my upcoming release, Output Sans. While its cousin Input is tuned for code, Output is quieter and more versatile, with softer curves and tighter spacing, so it can better confront the demands of varied reading and interaction. With this prototype variable font, you can set the Optical Size axis to the same value as the font’s point size (or even better, your app or browser may do it for you), and the stroke weight will be roughly one point thick (between 34pt–166pt, anyway).
Rhody is a stocky geometric slab with distinctive vertical serifs in Supported Languages include: unexpected places. Its jumping-off point was the cover of a 1952 garden calendar that I found in the Mölndals Stadsmuseum outside Gothenburg, Sweden. With narrow, straight-sided forms and curves, Rhody’s quirky, mechanical look is punctuated by extra-gappy inktraps as well as blocky forms of f, j, and t.
Extraordinaire is an adjustable hairline sans inspired by single-stroke lettering of the Art Deco period, particularly the signs that I saw on early 20th-century buildings in São Paulo, Brazil. Its uppercase descends below the baseline so that the small caps appear vertically centered, and the round endings of its strokes gives the face a breezy, informal feel. Designers can use its variable axes to maintain a consistent stroke weight across different sizes, or layer multiple shade distances together to create a variety of dazzling effects.
Klooster is a thick, broad titling face modeled after the uncial script. While the uncial script dates back to the fourth century, this rendition has its origins in a twentieth century ex-libris shown in D. Giltay Veth’s 1950 book Dutch Bookplates: A selection of modern woodcuts & wood engravings. Some letters resemble Roman capitals as we know them, while others lean towards the rounded forms destined to eventually become our lowercase. Bursting with energy, Klooster’s harsh angles contrast with its gestural curves.
Roslindale Text is a serif for extended reading that takes its inspiration from De Vinne, a typeface named for the famed nineteenth century printer and attributed to Gustav Schroeder and Nicholas Werner of the Central Type Foundry. De Vinne was an oldstyle that couldn’t shake its Victorian sensibilities, designed in a time that was so immersed in the upright Modern style that folks seemed to forget what diagonal stress actually looked like. Roslindale smooths out the clunkiness of the original and dials up the contrast, flirting with the slickness of 1970s interpretations such as ITC Bernase. Sure it can be a bit cheesy at times, but aims for a creamy brie instead of a stinky bleu.
Pappardelle is a French Antique slab serif inspired by the rationalized, modernist uses of horizontal stress in the twentieth century, particularly Herbert Matter’s branding for the furniture designer Knoll. Its vertical stems range from dense to delicate across the duplexing family, but its thick horizontal strokes always stay the same. Ample letterspacing will counterbalance Pappardelle’s condensed forms in a fresh and surprising way; think about adding some tracking to accentuate its stacatto rhythms.
Bild builds on the features of Trade Gothic Bold and Trade Gothic Condensed No. 20, outliers in Jackson Burke’s famous midcentury grot. These weights are clunkier and narrower than the rest of the family, with echoes of Benton’s Alternate Gothic and ATF Railroad Gothic. Started in 2012 at the suggestion of Sam Berlow, Bild’s dense texture, narrow proportions, and straight-sided letterforms make it structured but not rigid. The typeface is named after the German word for “image” and was designed with a singular goal: to set a damn fine headline.
Crayonette DJR is a revival of Crayonette, a typeface designed by Henry Brehmer and first issued by Philadelphia’s Keystone Type Foundry. Until now, this typeface has survived without a digital interpretation that does it justice. This delightfully quirky italic features horizontal stress, luxurious curves, and oversize swash capitals. Crayonette DJR retains the key features and proportions of the original, but improves its spacing and tames a few of the wilder letterforms. Use this typeface with care, and it won’t take too much to add a healthy dose of that weird and wonderful Victorian charm to your page or screen.
Zenith DJR is a set of Art Deco capitals based on the inscription on a fire station in Charlotte, North Carolina. In this design, each letter gets a single heavy stem, eschewing traditional weight distribution and enriching words with a distinctive rhythm. Zenith also avoids the glitz and glam of Broadway, the famous contrasted sans, instead finding its voice in the stoic optimism of Art Deco geometry. Zenith’s chunky strokes and open spacing make it sturdy enough for smaller headers and extended inscriptional text, and its layerable inline can ensure that its unusual texture will truly shine.
Roslindale is a text and display serif that takes its inspiration from De Vinne, a typeface named for the famed nineteenth century printer and attributed to Gustav Schroeder and Nicholas Werner of the Central Type Foundry. De Vinne was an oldstyle that couldn’t shake its Victorian sensibilities, designed in a time that was so immersed in the upright Modern style that folks seemed to forget what diagonal stress actually looked like. Roslindale smooths out the clunkiness of the original and dials up the contrast, flirting with the slickness of 1970s interpretations such as ITC Bernase. Sure it can be a bit cheesy at times, but aims for a creamy brie instead of a stinky bleu.
Nickel is a stocky engraver’s alphabet based on the inscription of a 1918 Chinese banknote. The font is the first offering in the Font of the Month Club!
In this face the traditionally round letters (like O and S) are straight-sided, as if chiseled from a block.
Meanwhile the traditionally straight letters (like H and N) are dominated by the sweeping curves of large, bracketed serifs. Nickel shares the monumentality of the lettering on today’s American currency, but its squarish forms add a peculiar strengh and energy with overtones of the 1970s classic typeface, Serpentine.
Is this club for real?
Yes! The club is a great way for me to share my work early and often, and a great way for you to diversify your font library at a minimal cost. I admit it’s a goofy concept, but I take it very seriously. I’ve been emailing out a font every month since May 2017…that’s 39 months of typographic goodness!
Can I get past issues of the club?
Yes! Most back issues are available for $24, which includes a free 3-month club membership. Once you’re a member, you can access other back issues for $12. Not a bad deal! If you’d like to see what’s included in any issue, feel free to grab a testing license, and note that some series such as Roslindale have been expanded and given a proper release at djr.com.
What are the fonts like?
Every month is different. Sometimes the fonts are one-off styles, other times they’re a piece of a larger family, an expansion of a previous release, or a variable font that includes multiple styles. Sometimes they’re a bit experimental, other times they are functional workhorses. Sometimes they’re caps-only, other times they’ll have a decked-out character set. (I do always try to make sure they are usable in all major European languages that use the Latin alphabet, and most have support for Vietnamese as well.) I will say this: whatever these fonts lack in completeness, they will make up for it in charisma!
What is the license like?
Club fonts are distributed under my standard Mini license, which permits use of the font on up to 3 desktop workstations, websites with up to 15,000 monthly web visitors, and 1 e-book/app. Unlike other subscription services, this perpetual license allows you to keep using the fonts long after your club subscription ends.
I hear you on this, which is why I made Font of the Month Club different than most subscriptions in two crucial ways:
- Recurring payments are 100% optional: you can order a yearlong subscription as a one-time purchase, and then re-up as often as you’d like.
- The fonts you get won’t disappear; every font I send comes with a perpetual license, so you can keep on using them long after your subscription ends.
Do I qualify for the discounted membership?
This is for you to determine. I truly believe that the $6/month full membership is a good deal and a fair price. But I also realize that capitalism is far from fair, and that not everyone has the resources to make the club a part of their monthly expenses, especially in a time of economic instability. I want this club to be inclusive of all font lovers; if you honestly cannot afford the full price, the discounted membership is for you.
I don’t have a credit card handy. Can I pay a different way?
Any other interesting outlets for display fonts?
This project was inspired by The Pyte Foundry and Photo-Lettering; you should check them out! I have also learned from Florian Hardwig that Georg Salden did something like this starting in 1972…wow! More recently, I also learned that Chank Diesel had a program of the same name that ran in the early 2000s. And most recently, Future Fonts launched with a bunch of in-progress display designs from talented designers.
Can you tell me what next month’s font will be?
Nope. Half of the fun is that you don’t know exactly what you’re signing up for!
Give a gift subscription to your favorite font lover, complete with a keepsake envelope and membership card!